The crucial game started well for the Leave team. They pressed the Remain team high up the pitch and, for at least the first half of the game, the Remain team were slow to respond.
The Leave team said that there would be a “bonfire of Brussels regulations” and that this would free businesses from Brussels Red Tape. When asked by the referee to explain themselves they said this would encompass the Working Time Regulations and the Agency Workers Directive. Their elimination would free British business to compete again with the world. They were through on goal, certain to score. They were about to take an early and decisive lead in this most crucial of matches.
But what’s that? A linesman is flagging offside. The Leave team cannot believe it. The linesman ruled that this move was illegitimate. UK businesses are broadly free to hire and fire at will. The unfair dismissal qualifying period has been increased to two years. The number of employment tribunal claims has fallen by 80 per cent since fees were introduced. Both of these rules are pieces of domestic legislation.
The UK’s increasingly laissez faire workplace shows little sign of being fettered by Brussels red tape. An increasing proportion of the workforce are working part-time, or as agency workers. Self-employed Uber drivers and Deliveroo riders abound.
The attackers from the Leave team are outraged. We were about to take a decisive lead. “Look” says the ref, “the move was offside". Many of the recent changes to UK employment law have been domestic, such as the right to paternity leave and flexible working. These do not come from EU law.
The Remain team become energised very late in the game. Under coach Corbyn, they have finally started attacking and declared that the Leave team will scrap vital workers rights, if Leave wins the game. Battle is joined in a congested midfield. Patel and Eagle fly into each other, studs up. Eagle claims that workers will have few employment rights if Leave wins. Foul, blows the referee. The (domestic) unfair dismissal legislation is not under threat. The 2010 Equality Act will not be repealed.
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Remain continues to attack. Some rights will go, like the right to statutory paid holiday and the 48 hour week (part of the Working Time Regulations). That said, most workers through freedom of contract negotiated suitable holiday arrangements before 1998. "Ah, but there will be no guarantees,” say the Remain team, in the final moments of the match. This is a good pass and now Remain might snatch a late winner. (Hardly deserved given their lethargic first half performance).
Many of the UK’s key employment rights emanate from Europe. They could (in theory) be dispensed with by a future Conservative government. We will need extra time to determine which will go and which will stay.